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I-5 Rose Quarter project survey asks for input on freeway covers and roadway space priorities

Posted by on November 16th, 2020 at 1:41 pm

I-5 highway covers currently shown by ODOT include vegetation and paths.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is wasting no time moving forward with the I-5 Rose Quarter project following the stamp of approval on the environmental review phase of the process.

Metro Council President Lynn Peterson (bottom left) is the lone elected official among the faces welcoming people to ODOT’s online open house.

Now that those obligatory federal hoops have been jumped through, ODOT is eager to move forward with design. Right now the project is in what planners refer to as “15% design,” which means the level of detail is just a relatively rough sketch of what might get built. ODOT’s next big milestone will be to reach “30% design” — and narrow specific design concepts down — by fall of 2021.

ODOT launched an online open house today to promote the project and garner feedback on two specific aspects of that 30% design phase: the highway covers and roadway space priorities.

Covers over 1-5 have been the source of much debate. They are key to ODOT’s rhetoric about “restored community connections”; but critics (City Observatory called them a “thinly-veiled gimmick for selling wider freeways”) say the agency is most likely to build park-like plazas instead of the high-rise residential and commercial developments that would truly spark a renaissance of the Albina neighborhoods the freeway has destroyed. So far, ODOT hasn’t committed to funding highway covers — estimated to cost between $200 and $500 million — that would be strong enough to carry buildings. Simple covers with a few park benches and bushes atop them would be much easier and cheaper to build.

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(Slides of highway cover examples shown to the Executive Steering Committee in October.)

Wording in the open house released today says the covers could be used to reconnect the street grid, support “community activities and gathering spaces” and “potentially structures.” ODOT has hired ZGF Architects to complete an “independent” assessment of lid designs and options. At a meeting of the project’s Executive Steering Committee on October 26th ZGF shared examples of covers from Dallas (Klyde Warren Park), Boston (Fenway Center) and Phoenix (Hance Park).

Based on survey questions, ODOT is considering a host of uses for the space above the covers including: parks, athletic fields, amphitheaters, vendors and food carts, features like fountains and plantings that evoke nature, and/or educational features to highlight the old Albina neighborhood.

When it comes to structures, ODOT is gauging support for buildings that would support affordable housing, market rate housing, “structural elements prioritized by the Black community”, buildings with “affordable space for Black community organizations and programs”, “community services such as healthcare and educational facilities”, or “Affordable, culturally supportive commercial space.”

There’s also a question about what types of transportation uses should be given priority on the new street grid which will have, “finite roadway widths to accommodate a variety of potential uses.” Survey-takers can rank sidewalks, bike lanes, transit lanes, auto and freight lanes, or on-street parking.

Check out the open house and take the survey here (the survey is at the end so you have to click through a few pages).

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Nick
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Nick

Sad to see this freeway expansion project continue to be forced through

Candance
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Candance

This is awesome to see. Voters rejecting the SW Corridor, getting rid of Eudlay, show the level of seriousness voters want funding to go towards. Bankrolling max over the last 20 years (orange line, green line, tillikum crossing, airport max, countless street car lines, etc) have tired Portland residents apparently. Portland traffic is consistently top 15 worse in the nation even though we have funded all these pet max projects. Time to finally do sometbing about these roads

John Liu
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John Liu

Is it even worth pretending at public engagement?

Allan Rudwick
Subscriber

From the beginning, people involved wanted to see buildings on the caps to keep the area above the freeway from feeling like a break in the city. ODOT always said it was impossible to do that based on their assumptions on how they wanted to build the project from the beginning (aka they were not willing to change their plan at all). If they are serious about allowing buildings on top of the freeway it will be a) quite expensive and b) a nice change of pace from their previous approach.

This project is still way too expensive and doesn’t achieve a return on investment that the public should demand from it. As such, it should be killed.

The amount of time (paid staff time and unpaid community time) that has been spent arguing about this project can never be returned. But we can and should still teach ODOT a lesson by killing the project

EP
Guest
EP

Those covers have too many holes in them. Not sure how great a park will be surrounded by interstate exhaust vents. “I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project” sounds good, but…can the rose quarter be improved without widening I-5? Because that would be more exciting. Even their .org domain seems disingenuous. i5rosequarter.org

Hello, Kitty
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Hello, Kitty

Those caps look like they will be an abandoned wasteland, and will likely put to use by urban campers.

K2H
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K2H

Anything short of building freeway covers that can structurally support buildings should not be given any consideration. Today, any one of us can drive I-5 or I-405 through Portland and see appalling examples of what happens with ODOT-owned land in/around freeways. If ODOT has already proved they cannot be held accountable to properly manage or maintain existing greenspace areas on their land in our City, then why would Portlanders have any level of confidence that somehow this situation would be any different?

The narrative that these freeway decks will be perfect places for “parks, athletic fields, amphitheaters, vendors and food carts, features like fountains and plantings that evoke nature, and/or educational features” demonstrates that ODOT hasn’t taken the time to learn or understand the community needs/wants. In addition, by presenting a few pretty pictures with lots of green to represent park space (never mind the fact it’s over a noisy and polluted freeway), it is apparent ODOT officials believe the community is gullible and un-informed enough to believe that is somehow an ideal outcome.

Finally, for an area that intersects two of the most heavily used bike commuter routes in the City (N Williams Ave & N Vancouver Ave), where 5,000+ bicyclists have been counted during peak periods on an average weekday (pre-COVID world), it seems to be amiss as a priority for this project. If this project is to move forward, I would hope to see ODOT/PBOT give the impacted bike routes some serious attention as part of the planning and design process.

Ben F
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Ben F

Those pictures are depressing…

FDUP
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FDUP

If you respond you are just enabling them; continue to resist!

RipCityBasWorks
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RipCityBasWorks

I completely oppose this highway expansion. Climate change absolutely needs to be a priority. We need to stop repeating the same exact urban planning mistakes of the 20th century.

squareman
Subscriber

Just a quick hot take on the lids: if they’re not strong enough for buildings, they’re not strong enough for a public park – not that I even think ODOT/PBOT would make these desirable green spaces. When people get together, shoulder to shoulder (hey, the pandemic will eventually end), say like at the start of a WNBR, the weight per square foot can be higher than with bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Look no further than what happened to the Golden Gate Bridge on its 50th birthday celebration. They had closed it briefly to traffic and opened the whole bridge to pedestrians. The bridge quickly filled up people and the overall weight on the span was greater than anything the bridge had experienced before, visibly flattening out the rise of the deck. The bridge wasn’t in any danger, but the point is, the density of people was heavier than anything the bridge had experienced before. https://www.sfgate.com/local-donotuse/article/Golden-Gate-bridge-walk-1987-anniversary-disaster-13896571.php

maxD
Guest
maxD

I know they claim to be at only 15% design, but they are proposing a lot of “green” options. From an urban design and horticultural perspective, these spaces are doomed to be unsuccessful. ODOT should be pressed now to identify who will own these spaces. Is ODOT going to pay the water bill, pick up the trash, clean the graffiti, replace the dead plants, clean up the leaves, etc for what are essentially new parks/plazas? This is substantial, on-going cost, especially for spaces that promise to be highly undesirable and isolated. Are they planning to transfer them to PP&R? that seems like an unacceptable cost/benefit to me. Since they are on the surface, will PBOT inherit them? PBOT has a miserable track record or paying to construct landscape, then abandoning all maintenance laving highly undesirable remnant spaces and offering no support, even obstruction when the community tries to revegetate or rehabilitate (see the “jughandle” at 120nd and Halsey. Will they ask Metro to pay for maintenance and irrigation? Multnomah County (expect prison crews once a year, nothing more. It seems trivial, but future ownership and maintenance will be essential for these spaces to avoid quickly becoming derelict, and I have not seen any partner agency identified.

Peter W
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Peter W

Even with the caps, what do you see? So. Much. Asphalt. Yikes.

Peter W
Guest
Peter W

The direct link to the survey is: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/6SF5TTG

Sidenote: I found it a bit hard to answer – how can I hold any opinion on what I want “possible highway cover elements” to include when I don’t actually trust ODOT with this highway project at all?

buildwithjoe
Guest

.

It would be so easy to defund this if Portland voters contacted their lawmakers and demanded the project be defunded.

90 Lawmakers in Salem – 26 of those democrats are from the Metro Area.

I’ve made a spreadsheet of their emails and phone numbers. Most of them have not replied to my questions if they support or oppose the project. They will not answer you if you contact them, but please hound them until they do.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1hR94sTjafcsSUeYbuxZJaZYPxUECxwiDKYdQs-g4cN4/edit?usp=sharing

.. see the URL above to contact your lawmakers. The unions love this freeway, and neo liberals like Rex Burkholder who founded the BTA fully supported fast tracking the CRC freeway. The bike and pedestrian non profits are sold out on these freeway projects.